Though trained in the broader field of modern European history (with an emphasis on modern Germany), my research on political violence, social movements, the politics of resistance, and transnational alliances reflect a particular commitment to the field of contemporary history.
My first book, Terror and Democracy in West Germany (Cambridge University Press, 2012), uses the example of West Germany and, more specifically, the terrorist attacks of the 1970s, to investigate the problem of how a democracy can successfully defend itself and still remain democratic in the process. To be sure, the Federal Republic was hardly the first or the last state to confront this question. But memories of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich added to the perceived crisis, as West Germans fought to contain not only the violence of so-called terrorists but also that of the well-armed state. In the end the book argues that, contrary to what we might expect, the experience of terrorism (and counter-terrorism) proved productive: at the end of the 1970s, West Germans revised their previous conclusions regarding democracy’s viability in Germany and helped reshape West German political culture as a result.
My current project brings together a number of different research strands — tourism; food; migration; international diplomacy; politics of the right, left, and center — to reveal Italy’s particular importance for Germany’s moral and psychological re-founding as well as its political and economic reconstruction after World War Two and Nazism. For several generations of Germans, in the east as well as in the west, Italy served as both a physical place and an (imagined) alternative path from which to confront (and, yes, sometimes to escape) the specific challenges and disappointments of postwar Germany. In this, Italians were not passive bystanders or mere “screens” for German conceptions of difference; they actively cultivated relations with Germans, collaborated in their political aspirations, and, as migratory workers and entrepreneurs, lived among West Germans. In other words, postwar Germans’ love affair with Italy was very much an entangled affair and Germans were not quite the unrequited lovers we assume them to have been. If, after 1990, this affair serves no greater purpose, it still resonates powerfully in EU economic politics and cultural concerns about Germany’s — even the globe’s — “Italianization.”